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on 29 October 2004
Fellini's opening scene puts the stamp on this one: a helicopter flies over Roman ruins, a statue of Christ suspended beneath. A second helicopter stalks it, a journalist and photographer onboard. They fly on over new blocks of flats - ugly, functional buildings, dallying to wave to bathing beauties, men and women failing to communicate above the noise of the aircraft. An atmosphere of cynicism is established: Rome is a crumbling ruin, decadent, its peoples unable to talk to one another.
Set in 1950's Rome, La Dolce Vita follows the life of a journalist (Marcello Mastroianni), a man who can write great prose but whose work is devoted to the trivia of society gossip, the sensational, and celebrity hype: his life is empty and meaningless, filled only by sex, boredom, and flight from commitment. His girlfriend wants to marry him, but is driven to attempt suicide because of his philandering. He prefers, instead, to romp with the society figure, Maddalena (Anouk Aimee) on a whore's bed, or to flirt with a visiting Hollywood screen idol (Anita Ekberg).
Modelled on a Rome which had become an outpost of Hollywood, attracting many American actors, La Dolce Vita presents that unreal world which working class Italians could only glimpse through the pages of a new generation of celebrity, illustrated magazines. In Hollywood, the studios protected their stars and managed their publicity: in Rome, they were exposed to the local press - Mastroianni's ever-present photographer, Paparazzo, would give his name to the job. Indeed, two of the film's memorable scenes - Anita Ekberg dancing in the Trevi Fountain, and the striptease towards the end - were modelled on Ekberg's own, well-publicised exploits.
Throughout the film, Italian references are sparse. The real Italians are mere onlookers. Mastroianni drives an English sports car; a pianist delivers Bach's Toccata and Fugue; the characters drink whisky, gin, Coca Cola; Mastroianni's father reminisces about Parisian nightlife; many of the actors speak passages in English. Only the scooters, used by the paparazzi, are Italian. And there is an absence of Italian life: we meet a whore on the streets, a young girl working in a café, but otherwise the city is empty of working life. Only the clubs and bars are in full swing, and then only by night, peopled by the privileged.
Reference is, however, made to the peasants, to the superstition of the country people. Mastroianni reports on a claim that two children have seen the Virgin Mary. The kids are persuaded to re-enact their vision for the cameras. They do so with gusto, leading the crowd on a merry dance which culminates in a stampede. A man is trampled to death. For centuries before the illustrated magazines, the gullible masses could be fed hype and imagery! Now, it appears, the press has ousted the Church in orchestrating the spectacular.
The film is delivered in a series of scenes, often unlinked and disjointed, like the articles in a magazine - you open the pages and the subjects are exposed by the camera. Mastroianni rushes around, hardly ever staying at home, finding time to write only in an empty café, bemoaning the fact that he never saw his father as a child ... and now nearly missing him when the old man visits Rome. Only his successful, intellectual friend, Steiner, appears to offer any hope of stability, encouraging him to write, to use his talent, to abandon the "semi-fascist" scandal magazines for which he writes.
Yet Steiner is consumed with worries and doubts - the threat of the Cold War and imminent nuclear destruction haunts him. Steiner makes the only real reference to the existing political world - this is the 1950's, post-Fascist Italy, an Italy recovering from civil war, German invasion, American invasion, torn now between the collapse of the old order and the struggle for its political soul between Communism, Catholic Church, and Capitalism. It's an intensely political city ... yet one reduced to the trivia of the paparazzi.
Mastroianni, himself, has no values, no ideals, no political, moral or spiritual base. Beset by tragedy, he does not discover any sense of humanity or direction, but, instead, plunges further into decadence and dissipation. The film comes full circle. At its end, Mastroianni and his fellow party-goers discover some fishermen hauling a rotting "sea monster" up onto the shore. Christ, swinging beneath the helicopter, had created fishers of men. Now we have the partygoers carrying off some monstrous spectacle, symbol of the rotting society they inhabit, following it who knows where. Mastroianni turns to wave to the young girl across a stream, unable to hear her above the noise, still unable to communicate with women. He turns his back on her and follows the pack off to their next party, where the paparazzi will be competing to fish for images of men.
The film escaped the censorship which had dominated Italian culture for centuries, setting a new sense of libertarianism and a new, sexy image. Tame by modern standards, it nevertheless scandalised Italy ... while doing much to make Italy fashionable and a fashion leader! An intriguing film, a classic of European cinema, at nearly three hours in length it demands some concentration in following the subtitles and numerous asides.
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on 14 August 2011
A week or so in the life of social page journalist Marcello in Rome and his problems with women & life is the underlying theme. On top, three consecutive events provide the action: the arrival of Swedish sex movie star Anita Eckberg plus American husband - a fairly undisguised reference to Marylin Monroe and her one time husband, playwright Arthur Miller), a visit to the house of his mentor Steiner (with idyllic family scene, and some suspect Jungian style philosophy), an unannounced visit in town of his father with some social night-clubbing. Movie star and father return home again, Steiner kills his young children and commits suicide, with no obvious explanation (except perhaps that idylls are neither idyllic nor stable). Marcello is hardly any further in solving his problem; the final scene at the beach, a huge flatfish caught in the net, a look at his eye; across a little creek into the sea, a teenage girl he met before tries to talk across to him, but there is too much noise. The "open" sea is a typical Fellini ending.

Highlights - technical. At the beginning, a long "camera traveling" scene, a term the French use for approaching a moving or standing object from behind and then passing it, while making a full 180 degree turn, and looking back at it from the front, all in one continuous shot. Done for samurai battles by the Japanese directors Kurosawa and Kobayashi around the same time. If on ground level, very long rails needed to smoothly run the camera. Helicopters offer new ways.

Highlights - social and political. Flying in a statue of Christ for some church, else church also shown as a bureaucracy in the religious business including wonder healing etc. Huge new and unfinished suburban areas. Police of two kinds: the uniformed dummies standing around, and the plain clothes investigators in more casual jackets, with very alert political minds and no illusion about the crookedness of the system.

Overall. Compared to 1960, when Fellini himself opened the film in Rome much in the film star style of La dolce vita, ie amid scandals and stories, a much clearer structure and message emerges. Good camera, lighting and sound (Nino Rota), good acting especially by women, mostly still blackhaired and intelligent, quite different from the Cavaliere's times and underage flock of today.
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on 23 October 2014
La Dolce Vita Blu Ray (Region B)

First class product, this Umbrella Entertainment Region B blu ray of 'La Dolce Vita' from Australia. The transfer is perfect, the best version of this film I have ever seen. Detail, textures, brightness and contrast levels are outstanding. The sound has two- and five-channel sound options. I found nothing unfavourable about the transfer that caught my eye. I want to look at it all over again and savour its beauty all over. Far, far more enjoyable than the SD's from the past, including the Nouveaux Pictures restored SD DVD. Plenty of extras too.
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on 2 July 2001
The most famous film by celebrated Italian director Federico Fellini, 'La Dolce Vita' caused quite a stir on release for its portrayal of decadence in 1960's Rome. Although not for all tastes, this modern classic is never less than entertaining for all of its three hour duration.
Fellini had abandoned his earlier, celebrated, 'neo-realist' style for a more image centered approach, and 'La Dolce Vita' illustrates this perfectly. From the opening shot of the statue of Christ being lifted by helicopter over Rome to it's most famous scene of Anita Ekberg dancing in the Trevi fountain, the film is full of eye catching moments. Regular Fellini collaborator Nino Rota, provides a wonderful score which is as central to the film as the work of its director.
Marcello Mastroianni plays a gossip columnist who although dissatisfied with what he sees as his worthless life, is unwilling to give up 'the sweet life' among Rome's café society in favour of a more rewarding existence. With a cigarette in his mouth and a jaded look in his eyes, Mastroianni perfectly plays the part of a bored tabloid journalist, constantly socializing with Rome's high society, but always disappointed with himself. Most of the characters in the movie are directionless and without morals, which makes its setting in Rome all the more ironic.
The DVD release of this classic movie contains an excellent transfer from a good quality print, However the subtitles are built into the picture and cannot be turned off, In addition I also feel that the subtitles don't translate all the dialogue from the original script, and finally, the disc is regrettably light on extras. That said, For any broad minded movie lover, 'La Dolce Vita' is a more than worthy addition to their DVD collection.
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on 22 January 2014
This is a short review on the DVD, not the film itself, which has many well written reviews. I chose this DVD after reading various reviews as at the time of writing the Italian edition has the highest recommendation.

The Italian edition of La Dolce Vita has 2 DVDs, one with the film and one with the extras. This version lasts 167' (according to IMDB there are other versions of varying lengths). I don't know why it says on the back of the case, "Durata:178'".
The picture quality is excellent, beautifully clear in black and white with easy to read english subtitles.

Sadly the extras DVD has no english subtitles, but if u speak Italian (sadly I don't), u will not be disappointed.
The DVD contains:

Presentazione di Maurio Porro: 5'42
I ritratti di Enzio Biagi: Federico Fellini: 43'09
Caleidoscopo: 1'08

plus written information about the film, cast and crew.
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on 10 August 2013
I bought this film with the intention of using it to help me with my Italian....but once I started watching it I became engrossed in the film. The story is simple and follows the life of an Italian reporter in Rome who appears to be sometimes observing the decadence around him and other times participating in the debauchery around him as he goes about his work.

My only gripe is the awful English subtitles which often do not properly translate the Italian spoken in the film.
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on 3 August 2001
This is the first version of "La Dolce Vita" that appears on DVD, worldwide. As such it deserves a compliment, but technically is rather disappointing, because the video is not anamorphic, and there are no special features worth noting, as such a masterpiece deserves. Another boring "feature" is that the so-called "subtitles" cannot be suppressed, and appear to me as edited. Sometimes long pieces of dialogue have no subtitles at all. Fortunately these sub-titles display on the bottom of the image, leaving the picture unsoiled, but the whole edition was not planned for Region 2, just for the U.K. Price is fair.
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on 25 November 2007
This being my second Fellini film has made want him even more. Knowingly enough its Fellini's breakthrough film. In here it celebrates modern Rome as seen through the eyes of a celebrity journalist, Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), a frustrated writer earning his keep by staying out every evening on the Via Veneto where he comes into contact with the rich and famous. We are supposedly witnessing the moral decline of Western civilization, and the worship of movie stars as religious icons. The reporter has a live-in girlfriend, who wants to get married, the possessive and depressive Emma (Yvonne Furneaux). He has many dalliances; one is with a bored nymphomaniac society gal (Anouk Aimee).

In this sporadic tale Marcello moves around the city with the paparazzi, ready to catch the action, and he has the power to make and break the Celebes he covers. Marcello, a celeb himself, attends nightclubs and parties that go on until dawn that are given by intellectuals, hedonists, the decadent rich and various other parties. One such memorable scene is over a false miracle (the media has a field day as a pair of children claim to have seen the Holy Virgin); the most moving scene is the suicide of an intellectual friend (Alain Cuny), that is done with compassion for the morally upright vic; and, finally, an orgy, that became the film's reason for being.

I have a few favorite scenes that lift the film above the muck: the opening shot has a helicopter lifting a statue of Christ into the skies and leaving Rome. As far I can see, it symbolically augments the departure of God for Fellini's prophetic vision. Another memorable scene is over the Trevi Fountain (Mastroianni goes into the fountain where visiting Hollywood actress Anita Ekberg is bathing). The warmest scene had Marcello meeting with his father (Annibale Ninchi) and tempting him with the sweet life.

The film veers between high culture and trash, with a little of everything in between. Because the sex was frank, the Catholic Church condemned it as a dirty movie (which I can imagine increased its box office). The film is much more than that, it's Fellini's statement about him as an artist and how he wants to make movies as both real life and fanciful art. It's winsome because of the stylish cinematography, which fills the screen with mind-blowing bizarre visuals. It's a special film, but has become dated; it points its finger at decadence with a certain titillation but just as easily seems to be grounded with a sophisticated attitude in its need to search for a way to find the sublime. Like its playboy hero Marcello, it can't make up its mind if it wants to grow up. You might say that our hero has become a victim of something that's too good to leave, but ultimately may not really be that good for him.
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on 26 October 2014
Those who saw this ‘must-see’ classic film in cinemas back in nineteen sixty will not require any description of the unique constructs that deliver the film’s power and potency.

For those that have not yet experienced seeing ‘La Dolce Vita’ (The sweet life) I offer the following as an insight.

I begin with the innovative and all-important trailblazing CONSTRUCT that Federico Fellini - the director of La Dolce Vita - uses. As with all of Fellini’s films, understanding the underlying construct brings comprehension to the plot; story; sub-texts; characters; allegories; and the SEMIOLOGY that drives EVERY film forward - which brings forth deeper clarity, meaning, and depth.

The film narrates a week in the everyday life of ‘Marcella’ - a member of an elite group of ‘Paparazzi’ (paper rat) newspaper reporters who ‘sensationalise’ everything they report whilst pursuing members of the rich and famous so as to ‘rat’ on them by creating squalid and largely untrue stories to create scandal that sells newspapers to the masses.

The construct is based upon TWO premises: the first being the belief that because ‘stars’ and ‘wannabees’ are NEEDY, and so court attention to remain in the limelight, it is fair game for the paparazzi to ‘hound’ them, to show their ‘fans’ what they are REALLY like – even if it isn’t TRUE.

The second part of the construct displays the lengths that the paparazzi will go to secure a photo so as to create a sordid story – and charge accordingly to the highest bidder - knowing that the amount of money made from publishing the photographs will far outstrip the damages paid out in the ensuing court cases when the ‘victims’ sue for libel - because the awards for damages are a pittance compared to the money to be made from newspaper sales.

These two premises serve as the ‘glue’ to drive the narrative forward along many harrowing twists and turns that gives us insight into a sinister sleazy world riddled with deceit that has GLOBALLY reverberated FAR beyond the visionary observations displayed in this extraordinary film made more than fifty years ago.

As the masterwork progresses, each ‘assignment’ gives us deep insight into ‘how the other half live’, as well as challenging many ‘belief systems’ as we meet many many characters – old and young – rich and poor – characters whose sad and fickle lives are all intertwined with each other – all poignant – all memorable - and all beautifully performed with stunning delivery that leaves you breathless.

As to the cinematography – it is STUNNING – depicting everything from the beauty and grandeur of Rome to the squalid conditions of filth and deprivation brought about by abject poverty as we see the hidden-agenda of ‘Marcella’ juxtaposed against the wealthy as he intermingles with those who live in a life of hedonistic decadence and luxury – totally blind to his OWN needs and the needs of his long-suffering needy wife.

Like ‘Educating Rita’, this amazing film has so much to say on so many levels – and it may even make you question your own ‘little life’ – a ‘little life’ of your own making!

As to the transfer – it is wonderful – the music is intoxicating; Anita Ekberg is stunning; the views are spectacular; and Fellini’s attention to detail is astonishing - you can even see a certain piece of thread that is used to create drama in the dome of the Vatican. No wonder Fellini influenced and inspired such notable directors as Woody Allen; David Lynch; and Terry Gilliam!

The only downside is that if your mother tongue is ENGLISH, this BluRay defaults to a soundtrack dubbed in GERMAN and also carries the original ITALIAN soundtrack - with only Italian and German SUBTITLES available to you (wot – no English? ‘fraid not).

If one watches a film that is sung in a tongue that one does not comprehend, then one misses out big time on what is being said and why - but the moment one hears the dialogue spoken in one's 'mother tongue', the language brings comprehension to the plot, story, sub-texts, and so forth - which brings CLARITY, MEANING, and DEPTH. Try comprehending Wagner's Parsifal if the opera is sung in German and you do not understand German.

Aside from what you are about to read, where would you find out that Parsifal is blinded by religion and has a conflict between Mother Nature and Father Church? How would you discover that wishes and prayers are one and the same thing – and that neither serves any purpose; or that homeopathy and faith-healing are about as much use as a chocolate teapot - and those that participate in such ridiculous practices are deluded? How could you ascertain and then question why it is necessary for one lot of ‘believers’ to take arms and set upon others whose ‘beliefs’ are different to that specific herd – and thus draw deep insight and meaning from Wagner’s masterwork and come away with a strengthened or changed point of view into such things? In short – you cannot if you cannot comprehend the libretto. The same applies here.

That said, switch to the original ITALIAN soundtrack where you will notice that much of the dialogue IS in English, but for the most part the VISUALS carry the narrative – and if you like silk stockings and stiletto heels then this fabulous film is DEFINITELY for you.

Watch this – then watch Fellini’s ‘La Strada’ - and openly weep!

Happy viewing!
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on 30 June 2015
An absolutely gorgeous transfer to bluray from Criterion, worth learning Italian just to get rid of the subtitles! Nearly faultless although I think it may be a tad long.
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